Monday, 18 January 2010

Under The Ivy

Generally, I am not an obsessive gadgets person. I don’t mind computers or mobile phones but toys like Satnav are a complete no-no. So, back in 1985, when video recorders had already been around since the late 1970s, I was probably the last person on earth to buy one of the new-fangled machines. The reason for this late change of mind was that a certain TV channel was re-running old episodes of Gerry Anderson’s ‘Fireball XL5’ during the day when I was at work and having been besotted with them the first time around when I was a 7 year old would-be astronaut, I couldn’t bear the thought of missing the opportunity to see them again. So a machine was duly purchased, the timer set and nostalgia reigned.

After the initial burst of recording frenzy, I scouted around for other things to record and music programmes were the main target. In the late 1980s there were loads of music programmes on TV. As well as Top of the Pops, there was The Tube, The White Room, The Old Grey Whistle Test and various other chat shows and Saturday morning extravaganzas. So most of the period between 1985 and 1990 was spent with me having my finger permanently glued to the pause button in case something good should come on.

I still have the original Video Cassette with 3 hours of snippets from all sorts of bands but it is now over 20 years old and having been wound back and forth constantly, it is a little delicate and doesn’t always play properly. Somewhere in the middle is a short clip of Kate Bush at Abbey Road studios playing the piano and singing ‘Under the Ivy’ taken from ‘The Tube’ (and introduced by the late Paula Yates). It is quite enchanting, as I remember, but I daren’t try and find it now for fear of the tape disintegrating.

Happily, some kind soul has posted it on YouTube so I was able to reacquaint myself with it and confirm that it is one of those moments that makes your hairs stand up. ‘Under the Ivy’ did not appear on any Bush album but resided as a ‘B’ side on the ‘Running Up That Hill’ single. Notwithstanding its ‘reject’ status, it is a simple, short and infinitely beautiful song and the live rendition shown in the video shows Kate at her best – just her and a piano. Unfortunately, some bright spark of a TV producer has inserted a load of effects and snippets of her videos which rather spoil the atmosphere but it is still a mesmerising vocal performance from a true artist.

The last few seconds are quite revealing. As the song ends, Kate seems to ‘resurface’ to the real world and gives the camera a dazzling smile. It is almost like she enters an alternate world when she is performing, one which is completely unattached to reality and it takes a few seconds to pass between the two. Magic.


Mine said...

Thanks so much for sharing this one - YouTube is deeply dangerous for spending time like this. After your recent comments on Dusty Springfield I spent a little time there - and unearthed some truly amazing clips, including one where she's doing a mash-up (!) with Andy Williams of Want to hold your Hand - and brand New Me

musicobsessive said...

Hi Mine. You're so right. YouTube is becoming like a drug - if you know of a job that involves trawling YouTube looking for old clips of bands, please let me know, I'm a natural!

There is some great Dusty stuff available, most of which I've seen, but I haven't seen the Andy Williams clip - thanks for the link. There's nothing like B&W TV to get the nostalgia buzzing.

Adrian said...

YouTube is one of the joys of modern existence - at least for we music obsessives!

Lovely to see Kate Bush in such a piano performance ( :

Of a very (very) different nature, but, another example of how what people post to YouTube can unite us with our earlier memories, (and please forgive me if I've already posted about this, but, I'm just surfacing from days with no electricity - due to windstorms - and can't recall...), one of my most vivid tv memories was of Tiny Tim performing "D'Ya Think I'm Sexy" on the 'Tonight Show with Johnny Carson'. It was, in itself, a surreal enough experience watching Tiny Tim strip off his shirt and writhe on the stage, while singing the Rod Stewart disco number. Over the years, though, I could not find anyone beside myself who'd seen this performance, (or, perhaps, willing to admit having seen it), which made it seem even less real.

Then came YouTube, and, sure enough, someone had the video proof posted, and, it was crazy as I recalled, and, I no longer had reason to doubt my sanity (on that particular account, anyway).

musicobsessive said...

Hi Adrian - hope the weather's better now. I can't imagine being without electricity for days on end. I like my creature comforts!

You have raised an interesting point that actually ties in with one of my own hobby horses (stop me if you've heard this before...) and that is the nature of the camera. In effect it is nothing less than a time machine, stopping time in its tracks and capturing it so that we may revisit the past. It still makes my mind boggle to think that film footage shot nearly 100 years ago acts as a window to the past with us in 2010 viewing real events as they happen.

In a TV programme here in the UK (The Gadget Show) viewers voted for the most outstanding/influencial gadget from the last decade and the winner was YouTube. I can understand why - it is a vault containing the past which we can view at our leisure to learn and be amused. It can act as a confirmation, as you say, that our own memory is not at fault and can give us all a second chance to see actual events that previously we could only read about. It is truly a wondrous thing.

Adrian said...

It is, indeed. The Gadget Show viewers made a good pick.

On the discovery side, I've been able to watch film of Billie Holiday and Edith Piaf performing live.


YourZenMine said...

Ah, the You Tube phenomena. It certainly has helped prevent me from stapling my eyelids to my forehead in moments of painful boredom.


musicobsessive said...

Hi Yourz. It tends to be a staple activity for me these days - boredom or not!